Remembering John Kaydyk

Remembering John Kaydyk

1929 – 2023

John grew up in Winnetka, Illinois. After graduating from New Trier High School, he attended Williams College and M.I.T., obtaining degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering, respectively. John earned his PhD in Physics at CalTech, where he studied quantum mechanics under Richard Feynman. His thesis advisor was Carl Anderson, the discoverer of the positron and muon. Following two years teaching at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, John came to LBNL (then called Lawrence Radiation Laboratory) in 1959, together with Don Glaser, inventor of the bubble chamber.

At LBNL John was a key figure on the xenon and hydrogen bubble chamber experiments of the Trilling and Goldhaber group. He made major contributions to the study of K-p, π-p and 𝚲-p interactions and detailed meson spectroscopy, and in the early 60’s demonstrated the feasibility of a liquid hydrogen Čerenkov counter. In a 2016 interview John feasibility of a liquid hydrogen Čerenkov counter. In a 2016 interview John recalled: “When I first came to the Lab, the Xenon bubble chamber had just been invented, and it had about 20 liters of liquid Xenon. Now, LBNL is participating in an experiment that plans to use about one metric ton of liquid Xenon!”

From Bubble chamber experiments at the Bevatron John moved to the Mark I experiment at the SPEAR e+e- collider. While working a shift at SLAC on his birthday in 1974, John was the first to notice a 30% increase in the e+e- → hadrons cross section at 3.2 GeV, which was later confirmed to be the signature of a previously undescribed elementary particle, the J/psi meson. For this discovery, the leader of John’s research group, Burton Richter, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1976, shared with Sam Ting, whose group independently made the same discovery at BNL. John became senior scientist at LBNL in 1977. Even before SPEAR came into full operation, John was active in planning the next generation of storage rings, PEP, heading one of the groups studying the physics potential. He later headed the beam pipe and EndCap Calorimeter (ECC) projects for Mark-II, and was co-spokesperson for experiment PEP-5.

The ECC project sparked his interest in wire chambers and gaseous detectors, which he would pursue for the rest of his career. John went on to lead the Wire Aging Project for the SSC lab, and organized a seminal workshop on wire aging in 1986. After the SCC, John worked on the Babar DIRC, headed the Gas Microdot Project and the development of the Microdot Chamber, and in the late 90’s worked on the newly developed Gas Electron Multiplier technology.

John loved his work and continued working at LBNL long after his official retirement in 1999, publishing his last paper in 2017 at age 87 (, mentoring and inspiring young scientists and students while opening up new research directions. As Prof. Sven Vahsen (U. of Hawaii) put it: “I was part of a different group at LBNL, and did not really intend to join [John’s] project. But pretty soon I found myself brainstorming with him on other uses of the technology, and writing funding proposals. This eventually turned into a whole new research direction for me as a young faculty member ( All thanks to John.”

In 1977, John and family moved to France for a year while John worked at CERN. During road trips that year, the family traveled through much of Europe in an old Peugeot station wagon, which John managed to continue driving even after its clutch failed in Hungary.

John loved backpacking and mountain climbing, summiting all fourteen of the then-named California peaks above 14,000 ft, often with one or both of his children. He was also a runner, bicyclist, skier and scottish dancer. He and his beloved wife Ann spent many years doing Scottish Country dancing, and John sometimes performed with their dancing group at the annual Scottish games.

John is survived by his two children, Lisa C. Kadyk of San Francisco and John C. (Chris) Kadyk of Oakland and by two grandchildren, Khiven R. and Claudette M. Kadyk-Chiaverotti. A celebration of life is being planned for June 2023. For details, please contact

Written by Maurice Garcia-Sciveres, Lisa C. Kadyk, John C. Kadyk, Anthony Spadafora